Sgurr Na Ciche – Memories. A hill not to be rushed and enjoyed, a long way from home.

Kevin Woods on his Winter Munros has just climbed another superb day again. He was away in the wilds of the West Coast near Loch Arkaig on Sgurr Na Ciche and neighbouring Munros. Yesterday he climbed 5 Munros, well done him and you can follow his days on #Kevin woods winter 282 he is doing a winter ascent of the Munroes.

I have had so many superb days on these hills, its a tricky complex area hard going remote and needs good navigation. My Dad introduced me to this area and told me many of the tales. In 1936 he was a student Minister in this area living in Achnacarry. He was well looked after by the Head Keeper and never forgot his kindness and often spoke about him and his family. He took the services for the remote crofts and the head keeper carried the robes and Dad’s stuff. Ministers even young ones were treated well in these days. For years we received venison in the post a bloody parcel that my Dad loved but my Mum was horrified by.

Great wild hills.

He did two summers here from University and made a great pal from the head keeper It was a wild place then and the first time I saw it was in our first car a Morris Minor in 1965/66 and that road to Loch Arkaig was wild and I was sick. My Dad told me many tales of this area and what it meant to him. We managed a day out over the classic 3 Munros when I was very young 12 or 13 it was such a day. The view from Sgurr Na Ciche and Loch Nevis was wonderful. It is a special place and to sail up loch Nevis is even better as the area is surrounded by wonderful mountains not all Munros. Winter in here is an expedition, wild and unforgiving yet I have never been disappointed. I spent a hard weekend here walking in on a Friday night and climbing the Corbett Sgurr na h – Aide a wild day with really tricky climbing in deep snow. This was with the legend John Hinde I was very young 18 and it was hard going the descent in the dark back to the bothy was exciting. Then next day we came over the Ciche and the other two Munros. I have seen such wild life here, from Sea Eagles to lots of stags and to sit on the summit and not rush is so specail. If you go do not rush them these hills are like a good dram to be savoured. I confess to have slept on this summit on a hot day.

1978 – Last Munro for Terry and Jim.

I still look back at some wild days reaching the bothy at Sourlies and some fun nights. On our winter Courses when the weather was poor and conditions were bad we had bothying trips taking in these great peaks. These days tested us to the full, big bags and in winter they could become Alpine. Especially Sgurr Na Ciche “the peak of the breast” a familiar sight to many who love the hills. Its a shapely mountain.

Sourlies – with Teallach

In these days we had American PJ’s with us they were (big strong and full of muscles and some full of bull shite ) They were with us for several years, training with us, they were all amazed by these hills and the remoteness. We had a bit of an epic one year and had to evacuate one off the hill in wild weather. It was march or die time, he slipped on the ice on Sgurr Na Ciche hurting his leg, but that’s another story. so many young Team member’s have great memories of this area big days, big hills, big plans.

Brilliant Day with Gail.

I have so many memories of great days, epic navigation, steep descents, crazy river crossings and then the walk out or drive out all hard days. When I read Kevin’s’ account yesterday and the speed he travels at, how he uses the weather window to plan his days its wonderful reading.

Winter Ascent.

These days the road is still a bit tight up to Loch Arkaig and the bike can be taken from the road end, its worth it at the end of the day. Once in the early 70’s Tom MacDonald and me we walked in from the Commando Memorial near Spean bridge. we were not drivers then and travelled by bus. To be met at the road end by a keeper who was stalking and said there was no chance of us getting on the hill. We were allowed to camp at the loch end. then go back next day no hills but sore feet. We were naive then now we have the information available when to keep away from the hills and we can still visit but we have to work together.

Freedom of Access was not law then, never take it for granted! If you have not climbed these hills you must and then climb the Corbetts they are harder.

Its great to look back and see these hills and I cannot wait to go on the hills I am feeling better but the World is scary place just now but all we can do is enjoy what we have. I am lucky I am live in such a special place. Take care all.

The Keeper who looked after my Dad see below Donald Cameron and family.

2020 March – Achnacarry Photo

Does anyone have any information on the above photo? I am sure it was from when my Dad was a student minister at Achnacarry in the late 1930’s. He was often out giving communion to the various outlying remote settlements in the area. I was brought up on the many tales of the keeper who carried the communion cups and wine and was looking after my Dad on these trips. They often went over the hills and the tops and that made a huge impression on my Dad who was super fit and at Edinburgh University and captain of the Harriers. He spoke about visits to the big house and the Cameron’s of Locheil and their work during the war.  I was very young about 12 when we got our first car I remember the wild drive up to Achnacarry, Loch Arkaig and Glendessary to see this magical place. I was sick most of the way yet I never forgot that road or the hills and they remain majestic to me. I was often up in this area and it became somewhere else I bonded with.  I am sure we met the keeper and his family but my memory fails me.

I was just a wee laddie. My Dad often spoke about with great warmth for the way he was looked after by the keeper and the locals.  

His mode of transport was a bike and he cycled back to Spean Bridge at times after some of the services.  I am trying to chase this up so if anyone can help that would be great My Dad was called Bill Whalley. He and Mum gave me a huge love and respect for the mountains and the people who work in them.  I always had this vision of him and the keeper bagging a Munro or a big hill on the way home.

He often spoke about this part of his life in his sermons. I wish I had listened a bit more in these days!

From my sister Eleanor who replied

From my sister  ” this old photo around 1935-6,Dad was student minister missionary at Achnacary, friends with Donald Cameron head keeper on estate .Used to send Dad venison by post ,very bloody Mum had fun cooking it.xx

Dad stayed with family for two summers we think he always spoke about them so well.”

  1. Janice Cameron says: May 9, 2018 at 6:03 pm

Hello! This is a photo of my grandparents, aunt and uncle. Donald was indeed a gamekeeper at Achnacarry. Lovely to see the photo as we have very few of them

May 9, 2018 at 6:10 pm

Janice that is great my Dad spoke so much about Donald and how he looked after him as a student minister! He carried his communion cups round the hills to the remote churches.What year do you reckon that was 1936?
Donald used to send us venison through the mail and I am sure I visited them in the mid 60’s .Reply

  1. Janice Cameron says:

May 9, 2018 at 6:44 pm

I think it was 1935 as my Dad is not in the photo and he was born in May of that year. We have many very fond memories of our grandfather, he was quite a character. I would love to hear any of your stories; can I contact you off line?

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Bothies, Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, People, Recomended books and Guides, Weather, Well being, Wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

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